Anyone following International Paper's controversial tire burn probably knows about its relationship with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The Vermont company, which bills itself as socially and environmentally responsible, uses IP cups. GMCR released a statement last Thursday asking IP to reconsider the burn, but concerned protestors, such as Thomas Keefe of Cornwall, say it's "not nearly enough." Keefe and other critics of the tire burn have asked GMCR to make a statement by dropping IP as a supplier, and have threatened a boycott if the company doesn't comply.
In an email from Keefe to GMCR, he writes, "By not taking a firmer stance you are putting your bottom line ahead of our health and safety, and particularly that of our children. That's not an acceptable calculus . . . are you an ethical company or not?" Green Mountain struck a deal last year with McDonald's that made it the fast-food restaurant's crank of choice.
The irony is that GMCR and IP worked together for years to "design a new cup that would use renewable resources and make less of an environmental impact," according to the ecocupinfo.com website. While most coffee cups are coated with a petroleum byproduct that makes them waterproof, these 100-percent-natural "ecotainer" cups use a biodegradable, corn-based resin instead. The result, according to Paul Comey, GMCR's VP of environmental affairs, is a reduction in non-renewable petrochemical materials to the tune of nearly a quarter-million pounds a year.
These cups "lessen dependence on foreign oil, they create jobs in the U.S. and they're biodegradable and compostable," says Comey. Plus, the company is "encouraging other companies to use them."
Another consideration for GMCR is that IP's Ticonderoga plant is already planning to upgrade its pollution equipment next spring - it's secured funding to do so - and the outcome of the tire burn will determine the kinds of controls they put in place. Says Comey, "Let's make sure we're sitting at the table when they decide what changes to make."